The adrenal glands are tiny hats, one each, that sit atop your kidneys and secrete hormones to help you deal with and manage stress. The outer part of the glands, called the cortex, releases cortisol, for our stress response and metabolism control, as well as aldosterone to regulate blood pressure. The inner part of the glands are the medulla where adrenaline is released, another part of the stress response.
When your central nervous system perceives stress, it stimulates the adrenal glands to release their hormones as a part of the “fight or flight” response. This can happen several times throughout the day and can vary depending on your lifestyle. For example, an alarm clock startling you out of sleep will trigger this response, as will less sudden stressors like feeling overwhelmed by your overflowing email at work or worrying about finances or family members. In the early stages of stress, this response is actually beneficial. It can improve mental clarity, focus and energy. But over time, the benefits start to fade, and the consequences of chronic stress take over.